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SBD Global/March 4, 2014/Franchises

Hong Kong Court Finds Birmingham City Owner Carson Yeung Guilty Of Money Laundering

Birmingham City Owner Carson Yeung has been convicted of money laundering.
League Championship side Birmingham City Owner Carson Yeung has "been found guilty of five counts of money laundering by a court in Hong Kong," according to the BBC. The 54-year-old had denied laundering HK$720M through his bank accounts from '01-07. Judge Douglas Yau said that Yeung was "self-contradictory" in his testimony and he was "making it up as he went along." Yeung will be sentenced on Friday and "could face 14 years in jail" (BBC, 3/3). In N.Y., Neil Gough reported Yau ruled that Yeung had given testimony "bordering on the nonsensical." Yau said Monday, "He did not care where the money came from, and he did not bother to ask." Yeung "stepped into the limelight" in '07 when a company he controlled, Grandtop Int'l Holdings, paid HK$234M ($30M), for a 30% stake in the Birmingham City. Grandtop paid an additional HK$730M "for the rest of the club" in '09, "changing the company's name" to Birmingham Int'l Holdings (BIHL). Birmingham City fan Daniel Ivery, who "operates the website Often Partisan and who has written extensively" about Yeung's "ownership of the team and legal problems," said, "It is a spectacular fall from grace. From what the judge has said, you can see how it was all a house of cards" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/3). BLOOMBERG's Shai Oster wrote "the team's fortunes peaked when it won the League Cup" in '11. Yeung was "arrested in his home a few months later and the team was relegated from the Premier League" (BLOOMBERG, 3/3).

NO COMMENT: REUTERS' Grace Li reported officials at Birmingham Int'l "declined to comment on the verdict when contacted" on Monday. Officials at the football club "were not available outside normal business hours in the UK." Yeung was arrested in June '11, when "trading in shares of the football club's parent was suspended." They resumed trading on Feb. 7 and "have risen 39 percent since then" (REUTERS, 3/3).

MYSTERY BUYER: The FINANCIAL TIMES reported Yeung "agreed to sell a chunk of the club three weeks ago to a mystery Chinese company with a distinctive feature -- a registered address in Beijing that turns out to be a government dormitory." The verdict came three weeks after BIHL agreed to sell 12% of the club to "an advertising firm called Beijing Liangzhu Guoji Chuanmei Guanggao." The Chinese company has a "registered address in Beijing." But "when the Financial Times recently visited the location, it found only a three-storey government housing complex." For two weeks, BIHL "repeatedly refused to explain why the company does not exist at the registered address, or supply any new address, citing confidentiality clauses." Birmingham City acting Chair and BIHL CEO Peter Pannu said on Monday that he had "urged the Chinese advertising company's lawyers to provide the information." ONC, the Hong Kong law firm "representing the Chinese buyer, did not respond to requests for comment" (FT, 3/3).

'NO IMPACT' ON CLUB: The PA reported Pannu said that Yeung's conviction will have "no impact on the day-to-day operations" at Birmingham. Pannu said in a statement, "I regret to inform all supporters and staff of our beloved club that Birmingham City FC's former president and benefactor, Carson Yeung, was today convicted of all charges he faced following a protracted period of legal proceedings. ... Birmingham International Holdings Limited, the holding company, shall continue to support the football club under the leadership of the group's new chairman, Mr. Cheung Shing" (PA, 3/3).
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